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Rob Greaves

Cream of The Crate - Record #11

Rating: 14 votes, 5.00 average.

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From the Cream of the Crate Collection – An album in my collection that is irreplaceable, and simply a classic!

This is number eleven in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my collection that I believe have significant musical value. For the second album in a row I’ve dipped into another classic Australian act – possibly the best rock/country duo we have ever had.

The album is, ‘Hitch Hiker’ and the artists are Bobby and Laurie (Bob Bright and Laurie Allen). The album was released in 1966 on the label (Alberts/Parlophone PMCO 7535) and (later reissued as Parlophone PMEO 9438). I have the reissue copy.

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One of my first observations is, that there are very few Bobby & Laurie albums. Here I am talking about ‘unique’ albums rather than Compilation albums of previously released material. It seems as though there are only three such ‘unique’ albums

All three albums stand-alone, and what I mean by that is that they are strong in their own right, containing material that any aficionado of the works of Bobby and Laurie would want in their collection. In 1965 they released “Bobby & Laurie” (Go!! GLP-3001). This album actually contains two of their classic tracks, “I belong to you”, and, “Judy Green”. In “I belong with you”, we may just hear some of the best guitar playing on a record released that year, courtesy of Bernie O’Brien (The Rondells), playing at his best.

In 1966 they released the album “Hitch Hiker”, and again, this album has two key tracks, being two of their most requested tracks– “Jump Back” and “Hitch Hiker”. As much as I enjoy the first album, this is the one I prefer. It has an amazing selection of styles and composers and Bobby and Laurie show their predilection for dipping into a wide range of musical styles. We have the Rufus Thomas (composer of Walking the Dog) track – “Jump back”. There is a Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (Brill Building composers) track, “Bless you”, which is beautifully treated by the guys. Then there is a Neil Sedaka track – Fallin’, and, Roger Miller’s "Hitch Hiker".

Each track is given special treatment by Bobby and Laurie, to basically make them their own. If there is one thing I can say in mixing this review of the record, with their live performances- they always gave their all.

Now I can’t imagine how someone who never heard Bobby & Laurie live, will hear the tracks on the album – Hitch Hiker. I saw Bobby and Laurie a number of times in the 1960’s, and was even fortunate to share the stage with them on one occasion with my band, in fact in an interesting twist of fate, our bass player – John Sullivan who was also our singer, was later on the join the Rondells (Bobby & Laurie’s backing group). What I saw, every time, were two guys who gave everything in their performances, and were always respectful of their audience.

This combined with their individually unique voices and their amazing harmonies as well as their ‘hand-in-glove’ stage act; set them as a premier Australian music act. I believe that the music on the albums, while never being able to recreate the excitement they generated on stage, still represented beautifully, their vocal abilities.

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Always giving their best, always creating hysteria

The third album, and possibly the most controversial, and hardest to find album, was the 1967Exposaic” (Alberts/Parlophone PMCO 7539). This album can command a price of over $300.00 and much more if you have an even more rarer copy with the track “I Want Woman” – which was removed under direction of a Senior Executive from EMI, he believed it could hurt the sensibilities of his daughter. He is reputed to have said, "I wouldn't want MY daughter hearing this"! Anyway, I have included this track as one of three that you can listen to in this review. It was seriously different, and amazingly ahead of its time!

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So to me, the fact that except for the various compilation albums, that they only produced three original albums is somewhat surprising, as this amazing duo blitzed the Australian music scene between 1964 and 1967. In fact while the critics claimed they were washed up in 1966, they went ahead and had three top 20 hits, "Sweet and Tender Romance" (#20 in Jan. '66), their hit version of Roger Miller's "Hitchhiker" (April), which was #1 in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, and a version of the "High Noon" theme song (#14 in September).

This is not a biography of the guys, but in a brief background, Laurie was a (according to the on-line music reference – Milesago) …”the veteran of the earliest days of rock'n'roll in Melbourne. His first amateur group in the late Fifties was The Three Jays, followed by The Lories ca. 1958. He was a member of The Roulettes in 1958-59, then from 1959-61 he was lead guitarist for Malcolm Arthur & The Knights, one of Melbourne's pioneering rock & roll bands.” He eventually joined The Roulettes and around 1963 met Bob Bright. Now Bob was born in England and moved to Adelaide around 1953. Prior to coming to Melbourne he had been working solo in Adelaide. The two worked together and independently until they both happen to appear on the same program of the “Go!! Show”, on the then Channel O in Melbourne, and decided to join forces, and so Bobby & Laurie – the act, was formed, and Bobby and Laurie the Partnership and friendship had begun.

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The "Dig We Show"
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Bobby & Laurie at Queenscliffe- 1965
Their great backing group – The Rondells, were no slouches. With top guitarist Bernie O’Brien at the helm, they were a formidable outfit. Bernie did write material, and the band did excellent covers of rock standards, however they had constantly shifting line-up and included Wayne Duncan (bass) and Gary Young (drums) who, at the turn of the decade, became the rhythm section for Daddy Cool and, later still, Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons; and Gil Matthews, later a member of Max Hamilton & the Impacts, Levi Smith Clefs, and The Aztecs, among other bands. One early line-up, in addition to O'Brien, included Denis Tucker (bass), John Sullivan (rhythm guitar) who was in the group until the end, and Dennis Collins (drums).

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Bobby & Laurie and The Rondells
Laurie Allen (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Bobby Bright (vocals, guitar)
backed by The Rondells:

The Rondells Mark I (aka The Impalas)
Dennis Collins (drums)
Dennis Tucker (bass)
Ron Gilbee (rhythm guitar)
Bernie O'Brien (lead guitar)
John Sullivan (rhythm guitar) replaced Ron Gilbee

The Rondells Mark II
Wayne Duncan (bass)
Barry Rogers (rhythm guitar)
John Sullivan (rhythm guitar)
Roger Treble (lead guitar)
Gary Young (drums, vocals)

Management: Ron Blackmore, then Mal Fisher

Key singles

  • I Belong With You - March 1965
  • Someone - June 1965
  • Judy Green - September 1965
  • Crazy Country Hop - December 1965
  • Sweet And Tender Romance - January 1966
  • Hitch Hiker - April 1966 (reached #1)
  • High Noon - September 1966
  • Carroll County Accident - December 1969
  • Through The Eyes Of Love - December 1970

Key albums

  • Bobby And Laurie - 1965
  • Hitch Hiker - 1966
  • Exposaic - 1966

Bob is still working and those that see and hear him say he has lost none of his charisma, his stage presence and while his voice has changed, it can easily be argued the change has just improved his voice, the way a good wine ages.

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Sadly, Laurie is no longer with us. Over the last few years of his life his spirit and willingness to keep going was epitomised by his circuit and club work, but his health was suffering, something he kept largely to himself.

Bobby & Laurie were slated to take part in the Long Way To The Top concert tour, but these plans were dashed by Laurie's sudden death from a heart attack on 13 June 13 2002. It prematurely ended one of Australia’s true gentlemen of the music scene, and finished for all time, in the mind of this reviewer, the BEST Australian music duo of all time.

Three Bobby and Laurie tracks. two taken from the Hitch Hiker album, and the third (I Want Woman), is the track taken from the Exposaic LP.

Hitch Hiker

Judy Green

I Want Woman

VIDEOS - There are a number of videos featuring Bobby and Laurie on YouTube. I chose these three because I believe they best fit the of this review.

I Belong With You

Through the Eyes of Love

You'll Come Around

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums

#1 – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues

#2 – Otis Redding: Otis Blue/ Otis Redding Sings Soul

#3 – Dr John The Night Tripper: Gris Gris

#4 – Spectrum: ROYGBIV

#5 – Son House: The Real Delta Blues

#6 – Cruisin ‘61

#7 – Live At The Station Hotel

#8 – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young: Déjà Vu

#9 – Moon Mullican: Rock it to the Moon

#10 – Billy Thorpe: Time Traveller

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